God knows how many side shows GBV members are in; I've got only two CD, Tobin Sprout's Moonflower Plastic, and Doug Gillard's 2006 solo LP Salamander (which are of course, great)...
Shit, why oh why did I think of doing this? (Well, utter devotion to Guided By Voices), but, even so, I can't claim that I have all of their releases, despite owning more lps of theirs than any other band in my collection. Look, we'll come to a compromise. I'll tell you of what I've got and if I'm missing some vital cog, you write in and tell me. Is that ok?
The best and easiest way to deal with GBV's releases is to split them historically.
Beginnings in bubblegum hick based lo-fi to Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. Fucking heroic, don't give a shit feel pervades all of these recordings. All have a rough sound, and though never inaccessible, don't expect Trevor Horn. Early, jangly guitar led REM influences on Forever Since Breakfast, Devil Between our Toes, Get out of My Stations and Sandbox gives way to a sparser experimentation on Same Place the Fly Got Smashed and Self Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia.
The gems for me from this period are Propellor, Alien Lanes, and Bee Thousand. Tremendous records all, as if Revolver had been recorded by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Great lyrical titles (well, as per usual), such as Kicker of Elves and the Gold Hearted Mountain Top Queen Directory. There's a real outsider's intelligence at work here with tracks like My Valuable Hunting Knife and I am a Scientist.
Heralded with Under the Bushes, Under the Stars (produced by Kim Deal), which has a more accessible sound, and a set of killer tunes, Don't Stop Now, Cut Out Witch and Office of Hearts. Try to get the 2 CD set with the My Valuable Hunting Knife single set on it.
A live aside, if you can find it, is Jellyfish Reflector a live concert from February 1996. A bloody brilliant concert, (despite a moaning crowd). 30 songs catalogue the whole 1994-1996 era.
Mag Earwhig! (1997)
Fantastic! I get to review my all time fave rock guitar LP! Possibly the best "mixture" (if that's the right word), of crunching riffs and dreamy, psychotically clever lyrics. This record is a must, from the beautiful reflective "weepies", such as Learning to Hunt, to the sandblasting of Mute Superstar and Doug Gillard's I am a Tree. This album is faultless. And one of their greatest covers.
GBV had under gone substantial line up changes around 1996-1998, settling down to a kind of working commune with Mr. Pollard bringing in who he saw fit. A new, more "audiable" direction is presented with Do The Collapse (1999); which, remarkably, despite the perfect pop production and slick package, NEVER lets the creative muse slip away. This is the album you want to buy if you are a GBV novice, much more accessible than its predecessors, it retains the trademark sublime lyricism and left field take on guitar pop. I defy anyone to be indifferent to the version of Teenage FBI whilst guitar snarl-ups such as Strumpet Eye contrast brilliantly with the Pixies styled Liquid Indians.
Isolation Drills (2001)
I always found this a much "harder" and darker LP, though there are the usual array of killer pop songs; (The Enemy and Glad Girls spring to mind), though there is not as much of the endearing weirdness of Do the Collapse.
Universal Truths and Cycles (2002)
A return to the feel generated by Mag Earwhig! (well, I always think so), more of an in house affair, (with the dispensation of a big name producer). Wonderful songs, yet again, and the lyrical-tough stand off that characterizes so much of their work is much in evidence here. Faves include Skin Parade Pretty Bombs and Everywhere with Helicopter.
Earthquake Glue (2003)
Not their best, a bit samey, sonically speaking, but very good moments nonetheless. Stand out tracks are I Replace you with Machines and Driving Heather Crazy. Maybe Bob Pollard's shock announcement this year concerning the bands' split is down to the fact that GBV had, in his eyes, said everything they need to say (as evinced by Earthquake Glue perhaps). If so that's a brave and inspiring move, especially as they are now being lionized by all and sundry.
Human Amusements at Hourly Rates (2003)
An end of the line, retrospective affair, showcasing the band's formidable back catalogue, great unreleased tracks, (better version of I am a Scientist for example). A good overview of their career.
The band's 2004 swansong Half Smiles of the Decomposed is reviewed at length elsewhere on the site.
GBV released two fabbo boxed sets in 2003, one called Box includes the first 4 LPs plus King Shit and the Golden Boys an amalgamation of unreleased recordings 1988-1993. The other, Hardcore UFOs, contains Forever Since Breakfast, Human Amusements... a live CD, a live and video best of DVD, (showing hilarious live sequences and the classic Bulldog Skin video), a B sides CD called Demons and Pain Killers and an unreleased material compilation Delicious Pie and Thank You for Calling plus a great booklet all wrapped in a cool day-glow box. There are also the monumenatl post-split Flightcase and Suitcase, which are mental compilations to say the least...
God knows how many side shows GBV members are in; I've got only two CD, Tobin Sprout's Moonflower Plastic, and Doug Gillard's 2006 solo LP Salamander (which are of course, great & reviewed elsewhere in the site). I've seen (in Leiden's Plato), about 7 other "solo or co-projects" involving the GBV family. Can't afford them as yet...
"Fading Captain" Series
Shit, I've only got one, The Pipe Dreams of Instant Prince Whippet, (2002), which is bloody ace and I think there's about ten. Obviously, some kind of crazy side project. If you see them, the rule of thumb is, buy them.
Fuck it, they're a great band, and seeing as they split, you now have a chance to get everything (that is unless you're now collecting Captain Bob solo LPs and Boston Spaceships LPs).